Commissioners unanimously approved changes to the county’s short-term rental ordinance on Thursday, allowing homes in all zoning districts to serve as short-term rentals with the approval of a county business license.
The changes will not require approval from the Hall County Planning Commission for homes to be short-term rentals. However, neighbors within 500 feet of the property would be notified by the county when a property has been approved.
There are currently 135 advertised short-term rentals in the county, but only 14 of them have a business license, according to Planning and Development Director Srikanth Yamala. He said over the last year, the Hall County Marshal’s Office has received 10 complaints about short-term rentals and has issued six citations.
The county defines short-term rentals as residential properties that are rented for overnight accommodations for two to 30 nights.
Anyone operating a short-term rental without a business license will be subject to a $500-per-day fine while the rental is still being marketed.
Commissioners doubled the fines for code violations. The first violation now comes with a $500 fine, the second a $1,000 fine and the third a $2,000 fine, plus the revocation of the property owner’s business license.
The changes come with a condition that occupancy would be limited to two adults per bedroom, plus three additional occupants — for example, a three-bedroom home would be able to house nine adults.
Commissioners said they hoped the new ordinance would be easier to enforce.
“I think having all these conditions on here now give our Marshal’s Office some teeth,” Commissioner Jeff Stowe said. “Before, if it’s not in the ordinance that you can’t park in the road, then that’s not a complaint they could help shut down.”
Chairman Richard Higgins said officials hope to “pick out the people who are bad for neighborhoods” by weeding out vacation rentals that have caused issues for neighbors.
Commissioner Kathy Cooper also noted that subdivisions’ homeowners associations could decide to prohibit short-term rentals in their neighborhoods.
Changes are effective immediately.
The previous ordinance, approved in March 2018, only allowed homes zoned Residential-I to be short-term rentals if they were within 500 feet of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers line for Lake Lanier.
Three public hearings were held before the vote, one at a planning commission meeting and two at commissioners’ meetings. Public opinions were mixed, with some saying they had been negatively impacted by living near vacation rentals and others saying responsibly operated and maintained vacation rentals could improve neighborhoods and help the economy.